Uranium pullback


It looks like Colorado won’t have a functioning uranium mill anytime soon – to the relief of anti-nuclear advocates.

We reported in July that Cotter Corp. was planning to reopen its Canon City site by 2014. Legislation passed this spring means that Cotter would have to clean up prior contamination before starting to process uranium ore again. Now the company plans to stop the monitoring it was doing for toxic emissions at the site -- a signal that it won't continue trying to reopen the mill.

The Denver Post reports:

Cotter Corp. has informed regulators it will close two toxic-waste impoundment ponds at the mill "as soon as reasonably achievable," according to a letter Cotter sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Cotter, which had previously said the mill would be reopened, now has told state regulators it will stop testing for radon emissions at the site because it is "no longer an active facility" subject to regulation.

The apparent reversal, and Cotter's decision to stop testing for radon emissions, caught local leaders by surprise.

County commissioners and local residents are questioning whether Cotter can abandon its radon-testing responsibilities at the Superfund site and whether its bond will cover the costs of final cleanup (the bond is at $14.7 million, and Cotter has offered to increase it to $20.8 million, reports the Post).

UPDATE: On Aug. 20 the Denver Post reported that Cotter now says it has no plans to abandon the mill site:

Cotter Corp. will dismantle its toxic-waste ponds and buildings at a uranium mill south of Cañon City, but it intends to keep its license from state regulators to operate at the site and may reopen, the company's vice president for operations said Thursday.

Jodi Peterson is HCN's managing editor.